Excited was an understatement as I hurriedly ate my breakfast eager to start today’s tour!
The sun was shining as we got on the road towards Kandy city and started heading up steep mountain inclines. We made a couple scenic stops along the way to admire the view of Bible Rock and a secluded temple I had visited before off in the distance! I saw my first wild monkey in Sri Lanka (which was only the first of many today as it turned out).
Afterwards we rolled up to Geragama Tea Estate for the first official stop of the day: a tea factory tour! I was super excited to learn more about the process of fermenting tea as English breakfast/assam tea (from Sri Lanka) is my absolute favourite. Showed around by a super helpful guide I was amazed at how much work is put into producing black tea, and their process and machinery haven’t changed in hundreds of years. After savouring a quick cuppa – with jaggery not sugar as is Sri Lankan tradition – at the end of the tour we were off to the next!
Today was the June full moon and a special day for Buddhism, which follows the lunar calendar. The holiday, Poson, commemorates monk Mahinda Thero who was the first to bring Buddha’s teachings to Sri Lanka. Poson is marked by restaurants, temples, and shops giving away free food such as ice cream, drinks, or even a full meal and we saw many long crowds of people queueing for these freebies whilst driving by. The streets were full of both traffic and people walking barefoot all making pilgrimages to various temples. We also slid off our shoes and entered a small local temple where I received a blessing from a holy man who tied a string bracelet around my wrist symbolising his prayer.
Next stop was Royal Botanical Gardens at Peradeniya, the outskirts of Kandy, and I was blown away by the crazy greenery to be found there. I have never been to such a well kept garden in Asia that was able to host such a wide variety of weird and wonderful plants before. There were the most humongous coconuts I’d ever seen, a towering giant bamboo forest, ferns and foliage that looked plucked straight from Jurassic Park, delicate and vibrant orchids, impossibly bent Cook pine trees (which always lean towards the equator), and endlessly more. We also got to walk on a wiggly suspension bridge across the Mahaweli Ganga river which was covered in monkeys jumping all around us.
We timed the rain perfectly as it just started to drizzle when we were leaving the gardens and the weather improved as we ate a scenic lunch overlooking Kandy city.
Onward to the Temple of the Tooth… except it turned out we couldn’t get in because of Poson Poya! Disappointment quickly turned into amazement because instead I ended up witnessing the most spectacular parade I have ever seen in my life!
I’m not sure I can do the entire spectacle of sparkling elephants and whirling dancers justice with words so just check out the video below for yourself.